iLoveBenefits: Industry News Blog

Right Measures; Right Incentives; Right Results

A report released on Tuesday by HHS shows “an estimated 50,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and approximately $12 billion in health care costs were saved as a result of a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013.  This progress toward a safer health care system occurred during a period of concerted attention by hospitals throughout the country to reduce adverse events. The efforts were due in part to provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as Medicare payment incentives to improve the quality of care and the HHS Partnership for Patients initiative.  Preliminary estimates show that in total, hospital patients experienced 1.3 million fewer hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2013.  This translates to a 17 percent decline in hospital-acquired conditions over the three-year period.”

Let’s get on with providing useful information to patients and their caregivers

Leapfrog is clearing the path forward and is a huge lever in our efforts to provide useful information to patients and their caregivers.


Healthgrades’ rankings website allows searches by experience A new version of the website that launches this week uses data from 500 million claims and patient reviews to rank physicians on complication rates, patient satisfaction and experience. Leapfrog Group CEO Leah Binder said the website is “game changing” because people can search for physicians based on experience in a specific medical area or procedure. USA Today (10/19)


One day, patients and their caregivers will have the important information they need to make important health decisions. Clearing that path and enabling appropriate measurement in both quality and resource utilization is among the most important things that health care stakeholders of all types need to be engaged in.

Patient-generated data in comparative effective research will enhance quality of care

Patient-generated data and comparative effectiveness research hold the key to greatly improving both individual and population health, according to a study published in Health Affairs . Read more here:


Scientists embark on unprecedented effort to connect millions of patient medical records

Nothing of this scale has been built before, and researchers say the potential of the network to speed up research efforts and to answer questions that have long vexed scientists cannot be overstated. But the creation of the network presents tricky ethical questions about who owns and controls the data, how to protect patient privacy and how research questions will be prioritized.

“Both the opportunity and the anxiety are pretty electrifying,” Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview.

The origins of the patient project lie in an obscure part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. As part of the nation’s health-care overhaul, Congress created an independent nonprofit group to help patients and their doctors make better-informed decisions about care. Dubbed the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI, and based in the District, the organization’s mandate is to launch, fund and coordinate research on “comparative effectiveness” — to find out which drugs, devices and treatment options are more effective than others.

Read more here from the Washington Post

Does this improve outcomes or provide incremental revenue?

Is point-of-care ultrasound the new stethoscope?
A new paper espouses the benefits of hand-held ultrasound devices over the iconic stethoscope, arguing the convenience and power of ultrasound will improve diagnosis. Writing in the journal Global Heart, Drs. Jagat Narula and Bret Nelson of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine question why sonography isn’t used more widely. However, Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, says the stethoscope remains valuable and warns wider use of sonography could bring additional costs — both for equipment and the tests that might follow the initial assessment. CBS News (1/24), (1/23), USA Today (1/24)

So, I am not against advances, but is there evidence that the outcomes are better than with a stethoscope? I know it will be more expensive. The article talks about it leading to more tests, too.

On the other hand, how about personal medicine and getting these devices as apps with sophisticated computer software that links to a ‘benchmark’ database to inform patients of potential next steps? Does that lower the number of office visits and procedures vs. putting the technology only in the hands of the clinician?

Alzheimers: memantine versus vitamin E

Study: High-dose vitamin E may delay functional decline in Alzheimer’s
Among patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, taking high doses of vitamin E was associated with a slower functional decline, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers noted that vitamin E appeared to be more effective at delaying disease progression compared with memantine, but the differences in outcomes were not statistically significant. The combination of memantine and vitamin E was associated with less of an effect than each treatment alone. (free registration) (12/31)

Falls in the elderly is a major issue in US health care

For patients aged 65
and older, 13.5% of emergency department visits in 2009-2010 were for falls,
and 29.1% were for injuries of any sort.

“Emergency Department Visits by Persons Aged 65 and Over: United States,
2009–2010,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NCHS Data Brief
Number 132, October 2013,

Implications for telemedicine

Study explores human connections between docs, patients
A study revealed that while social touch and visit duration influence physician empathy scores, eye contact frequency played the greatest role in how patients perceived empathy among their physicians. The results, which appear in the Journal of Participatory Medicine, emphasize the importance of the body language in health care, the researchers said. (10/16)

3.3 Million Expected to Spend $7,202 in Out-of-Pocket Medical Costs in 2016 Under the ACA

According to a RAND Corporation study, Out-of-pocket medical expenses will decline for most consumers who become newly insured or change their source of health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The largest reduction in out-of-pocket spending will be for the 11.5 million consumers who become newly insured under an expanded Medicaid program, with the analysis predicting their annual out-of-pocket medical costs will fall from $1,463 to $34.

The largest increase in overall health costs is expected to be among people who become newly insured on the individual market and have incomes more than four times the federal poverty level. An estimated 3.3 million consumers are expected to spend $7,202 in 2016 under the Affordable Care Act, compared to $5,368 if the law was not in place.

Some low-income people in states that do not expand Medicaid could see higher health spending compared what would happen if Medicaid was expanded. For example, a Texas resident with an income below the federal poverty level who does not qualify for Medicaid will face costs of $1,831 per year, compared to $28 if they were covered by Medicaid.

Nationally, the 11.5 million people who become newly insured by Medicaid will see their risk of spending at least 10 percent of their income on medical costs drop from 45 percent to 5 percent.

Source: RAND Corporation

Are ‘failed’ drug trials really failures

‘Failed’ drug trials may not be that at all.

New approaches might lower drug prices

Targeted clinical trials, wherein compounds are tested on patients with
specific genetic traits, might lower development costs and subsequent prices
for promising immunotherapies. Drugmakers are also experimenting with
combinations of existing treatments that might cost less than single compounds.
The FDA has become more flexible, speeding the approval process for drugs
designated as breakthroughs and giving others priority review. Reuters (9/26)


If in fact, genetics help target drugs to the right patients, will there be enough

patients to support the research dollars required to come up with the new drugs. An interesting conundrum.

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